Luger killed in sled crash during Olympic practice run
Reporting from Whistler, Canada – A luger from the former Soviet republic of Georgia was killed after a horrific crash on the year-old sledding track Friday, Olympic officials confirmed.
On a morning training run, Nodar Kumaritashvili lost control of his sled at nearly 80 mph and was catapulted over the lip of the track and slammed into an unpadded metal pole.
Track and medical workers dashed to his side and began performing CPR as an ambulance raced to the side of the track. An air-rescue helicopter was called in.
Training was suspended as Olympic officials met to review the situation.
“It is hard to stay composed. It’s a very sad day,” International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge said, his voice cracking, at a news conference. “The IOC is in deep mourning, Here you have a young athlete who died pursuing his passion. I have no words to say what we feel. “
According to the IOC, an investigation is underway into the circumstances of the accident. Training was suspended and technical officials are now trying to establish the causes. Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers have cordoned off the accident site.
There has been speculation that the track is too fast. On Thursday, Romanian slider Violeta Stramaturaru was briefly knocked unconscious and required medical treatment.
It is possible to dial down the speed of the track by adding frost.
Kumaritashvili has been competing in luge for just two years. He was ranked 55th in the World Cup rankings in 2008-09.
Even veteran luge athletes are having trouble negotiating the track, considered the world’s fastest.
Armin Zoeggeler, the two-time Olympic gold medalist from Italy, crashed in training and Germany’s Felix Loch, considered a medal favorite, injured his shoulder last November during international training week.